Ignite Excellence Foundation
"The biggest problem in Africa today is not AIDS, poverty, disease, education, or urbanization; the biggest problem is LEADERSHIP. When moral leaders with integrity and justice arise, then Africa's problems will be solved", said Dr. Douglas Carew, Vice Chancellor of the Africa International University.
Suzanne F. Stevens, President & Founder of Ignite Excellence, was among a group of business women who heard this message when she spent two months working with women leaders in Nairobi, Kenya, in January 2007.
In addition to being affected by the harsh realities of life in Africa, Suzanne heard the cry from many of the leaders of tomorrow - The Africa International University students. They needed to learn how to develop influential presentation skills to raise funds and influence positive change. Over the past few years, Suzanne has been to Kenya on extended visits to empower students and leaders. She shares the skills required to influence leaders, communities, students, and the government in order to elevate their communities, country, and continent.
Suzanne has coached many Masters and PhD students to raise both awareness and funds for a variety of initiatives. The initiatives close to their hearts included:
The list does not stop.
- Teaching people in the Democratic Republic of the Congo how to farm
- Getting commercial sex workers off the streets
- Bringing other leaders to their schools
- Improving the school system
- Feeding their families nutritiously
- Educating orphans
- Lobbying to build homes
- Taking responsibility for Africa and its actions
- Creating awareness of injustices
- Eliminating political up-rising
Many of these initiatives are being lead by women. These issues, along with the realization that one of the best investments in Africa is investing in Women as Leaders, were the catalyst for creating the Ignite Excellence Foundation. This fund was created in April 2008, in collaboration with the Tides Foundation, to fund the development of women leaders here in Canada, as well as in developing countries.
Through Suzanne's passion for photography and some of her speaking and training initiatives, the Ignite Excellence Foundation has taken a very active role in raising funds. Since 2008, two women have been sponsored through their higher education to become leaders in their communities.
On Canadian soil, the Ignite Excellence Foundation donates to the Frontier College Foundation's Women in University – Mentoring Through Literacy Program. This program supports the training and mentoring of 100 female university students, recruited from 30 universities across Canada, as Volunteer Literacy Tutors to help improve reading and writing skills of children in low-income communities across the country.
Frontier College is Canada's original literacy organization. The organization provides literacy programs to children, youth, and adults in inner city schools, public housing sites, prisons, and reserves across the country. In Canada, 42% of adults have difficulty reading and writing. Frontier College's programs are devoted to turning these statistics around. Through a network of 2,500 volunteers, the organization assists 15,000 participants through 250 community partners to realize their reading and writing potential each year. Low literacy skills are directly linked to poverty, poor health, and high unemployment. Frontier College is devoted to transforming lives through the power of literacy and lifelong literacy.
The Ignite Excellence Foundation is an advised fund at Tides Foundation. If you wish to donate to the Ignite Excellence Foundation – send a cheque payable to Tides Canada (Ignite Excellence Foundation) - 680-220 Cambie Street, Vancouver, BC V6B 2M9 Canada - Tel: 604-647-6611.
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Ignite Excellence Foundation Scholarship Recipients
Mrs. Lucia Atoyebi of Nigeria
Mrs. Lucia Atoyebi is studying for a Master of Arts Degree in Education. She is married to Peter, and a mother of four grown children.
Lucia and Peter have come to Kenya after working for 14 years in Cameroon. During that time, they started schools, established local churches, started programs for women in prisons, developed a program to meet monthly with wives to encourage them, and developed an inter-denominational program for women. Lucia, who has an undergraduate degree in education, has worked tirelessly for many years to enable and empower women in their local context.
“When women are well equipped, there is nothing that can stop us.” - Lucia Atoyebi
Mrs. Mary Nthamari Odhiambo of Kenya
An enthusiastic and self-motivated woman, Mary is a self-starter and entrepreneur. Mary's spiritual grounding means that she works with integrity and supports activities that empower people. She seeks to use her business acumen and teaching experience to train and empower small-business people. Married to George Ogalo, she has two small boys - Cato and Mark.
The Global Bag Project
Tell us more about your ministry to empower African women.
Before I started my studies at NEGST, I had been involved in ministry among women, both inside and outside NEGST. During the 1st quarter of 2009, I was involved in linking up North American women with African women in empowerment projects in the slums. This opened my eyes in to the critical need for putting women together for profitable micro enterprises. I have learned that there is great synergy when women work together. Half way through my studies Sept 2009, Global Bag Project invited me to head their project in Kenya. In my role as the Kenyan project manager, I am charged with coordinating, mobilizing and facilitating training of women in micro business ventures. Currently we are involved in sewing beautiful and useful bags for the ever-expanding environmentally-conscious American market. Our cutting edge is that we empower needy women while contributing to saving the environment through provision of recyclable shopping bags.
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In February 2007, Suzanne Stevens of Ignite Excellence, traveled to Nairobi, Kenya with a group of Canadian executives. As part of Suzanne's gift toward leadership development in Africa, Suzanne did a presentation to the student community and leaders at our Masters level college. It was impressive to the faculty how quickly Suzanne was able to identify many cultural nuances, pick up on them and uses them for powerful persuasion and effective communication.
The students still talk today about that event over a year ago. Some of them feel their skills in persuasive communication have been enhanced forever. I know that Suzanne has received notes of thanks from many of them. The word on campus is, "When will Suzanne Stevens come back and do that again for those of us who weren't there?"
We have often had guest lecturers and speakers visit our international college from all over the world. The unique thing about Suzanne was her innate ability to quickly identify how a particular community works, figure out how to craft communication to be effective in that context and then show students how to use those skills.
We were privileged to have Suzanne with us.
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International Institutional Development - Kenya